Willie Taggart spent his first few weeks of this season dealing with two of the more talked about losses around the AAC. Taggart's Bulls were absolutely blown out by FCS opponent McNeese State and they followed that up two weeks later with a loss to a hapless Florida Atlantic program. However, the coach has finally started to turn things around in his first year in Tampa and he has his team at 2-0 in the AAC. A win against Louisville would be a major boost for Taggart as he tries to finish the season strong unlike his predaccesor Skip Holtz.
South Florida has two straight wins without scoring an offensive touchdown. 33 points and they haven't really even gotten close to scoring traditionally. That stat doesn't totally sum up the USF offense for the season, but it shows how hard it has been for the offense to be consistent. Skip Holtz only signed one quarterback during his tenure as the head coach of the Bulls, so Taggart has been left with former walk-on Bobby Eveld and transfer Steven Bench as options to run his offense. Eveld has been around for a few years and he will get the start against the Cardinals, but he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. Eveld is completing less than 40% of his passes and he hasn't been able to find a rhthym with any of his receivers so far this year. Eveld played well two years ago against Louisville and he honestly looked much better in person in that game than he's looked on film this year. I'm not sure if it's a confidence thing or an issue with understanding the offense, but I think Eveld is much better than his numbers indicate. Even if that's not saying much.
Marcus Shaw is probably the most explosive running back in the conference and he has really been the sole bright spot for the offense. He is averaging well over one hundred yards a game and he has had multiple big runs this season. He's a small back that can make one cut and be behind the entire defense. Or, exactly what Louisville's defense has struggled with for the past few years. The best comparison I came up with was Bilal Powell in Charlie Strong's first year. Shaw hadn't had much of an impact until a new coach took over before his senior year and found a way to get him going. Shaw will be the focus of Louisville's defense and he will need help from his teammates to give him some room to make a big play here and there.
The Bulls only have one receiver with more than 9 catches this year. They barely have two receivers with over 100 yards. Having multiple players that came out of high school with four star status, leads to higher expectations than the results fans have seen. Chris Dunkley was reinstated to the team, but he has done little to make a difference. Tight End Sean Price is averaging ten yards a game. Bg play receiver Andre Davis has also struggled to make many plays down the field.
The Bulls have had terrible issues at the quarterback position, but you still expect the talent out wide to have made at least a few plays by now. Louisville's defense has still not given up many big plays in the passing game. I fully expect them to press the receivers and load up the box to stop Shaw. Davis and his position as a whole will have to make plays to give the offense some sort of a boost this weekend.
The Bulls offensive line is giving up nearly three sacks a game and they haven't done much to help the run game even with Shaw's gaudy numbers. Louisville got absolutely manhandled by UCF's line last week, so I fully expect them to bring extra motivation to the field Saturday. I won't say that the Bull's line is the opposite of UCF's, but this is an area that Louisville should be able to get back to exploiting.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Marcus Shaw, WR Andre Davis
I could pretty much copy and past my synopsis of USF's defensive line from my post last year and I wouldn't be far off. The major difference is that USF had four linemen last year that were rated as four star talents coming out of high school. This year, they added five star transfer Aaron Lynch. The line is one of the worst in the nation at getting pressure on the quarterback, but senior Luke Sager has been a great surprise from his defensive tackle spot. He has helped the defense do a fairly good job when it comes to making plays behind the line of scrimmage, which could help with the effort to make Louisville one dimensional.
DeDe Lattimore still plays for South Florida. Seriously. Lattimore is averaging around ten tackles a game but he hasn't made as many big plays as he had in the past. Outside of a fumble return for a touchdown, Lattimore and the rest of the linebackers haven't done much more than the bare minimum. Reshard Cliett is an extremely active guy that will need to step up in pass coverage to help stop Louisville's slot receivers from moving the chains at will.
South Florida has done one thing pretty well this season and that's pass coverage. They've given up a handful of big plays, but they do have athletes that can turn and run with athletic receivers. Mark Joyce has done a good job of flying to the ball both in coverage as well as against the run. USF will run their fair share of nickel to try to mix things up, but they haven't done much more than slow teams down. UCF slowed Louisville down enough to hold the offense to 28 points last week. USF will undoubtedly try to keep everything in front of them and try to slow everything down with hopes to keep the score close. It will be interesting to see if Louisville goes hurry up here and there to combat that.
The Bulls have four touchdowns from their defense and special teams this season, so they are opportunistic. If Louisville makes the mistakes they have made from time to time this season, the Bulls will find a way to stay in the game. South Florida's defense hasn't made a ton of big plays but they have helped the team win two straight games without an offensive touchdown. That's saying something, obviously.
KEY PLAYERS: MLB DeDe Lattimore, S Mark Joyce, DT Luke Sager
- Just watch this video.
- Willie Taggart's Western Kentucky team beat UK in Nashville last season.
- As @doctorofdunk pointed out: Say this for South Florida: they've won one more game in their stadium than the Bucs
- USF's kicker Marvin Kloss has outscored the entire offense this year.
- Tampa is home to the Louisville Alumni Association's largest contingent of members.
- Somebody actually wrote this.
- I'm serious. Watch this.